ReWild Retreat 2014 ~ Cold Fingers, but Warm Hearts

Abby took a picture of us from above while making herbal preparations

Abby took a picture of us from above while making herbal preparations

The ReWild Weekend Retreat held in Western North Carolina was a real treat for all involved.  Participants drove in from SC, NC, and MS to explore the Pisgah Forest surrounding Kana’ti Lodge and to give their minds and hearts a chance to relax.  The lodge is located right off the Appalachian Trail.

The retreat began with a pot luck on Friday evening and a chance to snuggle up near the fire before setting off for bed.  Friday evening was focused on introducing ourselves and going through an orientation of the lodge.

Lindsay took everyone on an herb walk on Saturday.  During the hike, she stopped and talked about True & False Solomon’s Seal, Black Cherry, Sassafras, Plantain, and Usnea.  Their destination was the abundant Hawthorn patch about 1/2 mile down the trail.  There, they discussed Hawthorn, Yarrow, and Goldenrod.  They harvested some of each to make herbal preparations later in the day.

When they got back, Phillip had a piping hot lunch ready.  After we all feasted and digested, we enjoyed free time ~ a chance to take a nap, go on a hike, read, play instruments, or chat with others…  Then herbal preparations began (see pic above)…  We tinctured Hawthorn and Black Cherry, infused Goldenrod into apple cider vinegar, and infused yarrow into EV olive oil.  Lindsay talked about how to make each preparation and why we were using these particular herbs.  We wrapped up the evening with dinner and another fire…along with drumming and chatting.

Taylor took this beautiful picture of Hawthorn berries and Yarrow blooms!

Taylor took this beautiful picture of Hawthorn berries and Yarrow blooms!

The next morning we ate breakfast together and began the final round of activities before everyone journeyed back home.  Sunday was apple pressing day!

Phillip had collected about 10 bushels of apples to press into cider for the retreat (see below).  That day he talked about the variety of heirloom apples and apple culture in Appalachia.  He also talked about the many ways to enjoy and prepare apples from cider to hard cider to apple cider vinegar…as well as various ways to incorporate cooked apples.

The group then participated in pressing cider on an 1880s refurbished, vintage apple press.  They soon discovered that making cider has always been a community effort.  Everyone broke out into small groups to take on a particular task:  washing and selecting apples, cutting and loading apples into the cider press, hand-turning the cider press, gathering the cider into containers, and cleaning out the pomace (shredded apples) from the cider press.  Each step of the process involved one or two people.  As they say, ‘many hands make light work.’

The group pressing cider

The group pressing cider

Apple harvest!  So many shapes, sizes, colors, and tastes!

Apple harvest! So many tastes!

“According to the Celtic Ogham, Quert (Apple) is the ‘force of a man’, or the epitome of health and vitality in a man or woman…It is from the apple that we receive healing, renewal, regeneration and wholeness, especially after being wounded, exhausted, or ill.” ~ Mountfort

As we ended the retreat with a closing circle, I knew that the Appalachian mountains, the plants that it protects, and the ancient culture of the Celts, somewhat preserved in the local culture, had touched each of us in its own way.  We each tasted wholeness, we walked in an old-growth forest, and, even if for a short amount of time, we felt what it was like to work in community around food and nourishment.

During our closing circle share before each of us made our journey home, someone quickly asked when the next retreat would be!  Yes, it put us on the spot…but we are glad that idea was brought up!  We are already scheming our next one now!  Stay tuned and we hope to see you on our next ReWild Weekend Retreat!

“To restore the land one must live and work in a place.
To work in a place is to work with others.
People who work together in a place become a community,
and a community, in time, grows a culture.
To work on behalf of the wild is to restore culture.” ~ Gary Snyder

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